Master of the Game

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Speaking from a the PoV of a long serving DM, being viewed as an adversary is only good if you're running nothing more than a combat simulator. That being said, if all the players want IS a combat simulator, then go for it.

My experience is that my players have fun when I work with them to craft a story. When they refer to villians with hatred, looking back over recent events wondering how the didn't see it coming, I know I've succeeded. I haven't railroaded them into a situation, I've given them plenty of opportunities to see the betrayal coming. The times that they see it coming, I have either winged it or used a contingency plan, as the villian's plan falls apart.

The DM's only job is to make sure everyone is having fun. I have a player who prefers combat, so I never go too long without combat. I have a player who inevitably plays a chaotic and/or evil character so I don't force them to play like a LG party. When you're running something more complex than a combat simulator, the DM is more of an ally than an adversary. When we're trying to tell a story, it's no good to have Random Orc 3 crit and kill a character through no fault of thier own. An orc (CR1/2, IIRC) has a battleaxe and 16str and can crit for 33 damage, which will kill most low level characters (and mid level character who are a little low on HP) outright.

Now, if a character charges in without considering dangers or wanders into a battle when he's already near death, then I'm not going to help them. But heros deserve a heroic death, so it's very rare I let a character die from a big crit from a little monster when they haven't done anything wrong. It slows the story, it forces the player to make a new character and is generally not so fun. So, I (and my players) feel that I am far more of an ally than an adversary, and this is something most new DMs do not see.

I'm going to be a little self-indulgant and go with an example; I had a low level party walk into a room, knowing there were orcs inside, and ready for them; the orcs won initiative and one charged the rogue and crited for 30damage. We had recently been building on that character's story and it would've been a waste to say "well, how much health do you have, 20/24? well, you're dead now.". Turns out, that wasn't a crit - 10 damage was enough to give the rogue reason to go and get behind the fighter. When I started doing this, I was concerned that they'd lose a little fear, but the result has been quite the opposite - it makes main villians a big monster more fearsome, because at anytime they can land a big attack and players know I won't pull any punches.

Oh btw. Some of the most fun I've ever had DMing was dropping Shadow run extraction missions on the party. All you have to do is provide the setting, gaurd routes, and time frame for completion. Past that you sit back and watch the players plot, and try to manipulate your NPC's. Their solotions can be fairly suprising(that is if the planning session doesn't end with 2hrs of planning then every one saying screw it).

Good stuff.

It's never too early to try out DM'ing yourself. Just remember the K.I.S.S. rule (Keep It Simple Stupid), try to keep yourself and your players honest to the workings of basic game mechanics, and don't be afraid to improvise and adapt if things start getting a little weird (and they will, trust me) because even the simplest and well-laid out campaign or module is no match for obstinate PC's.

As far as Dungeons and Dragons go, all you ever really need is a set (or two) of the Core books, (Player's Handbook, Monster Manual and Dungeon Master's Guide) some dice, maybe some occasional atmosphere music, a couple of friends (or strangers) and a decent table. It's been my experience that the extra source books, while occasionally fun and neat tend to to more harm than good for a party's balance of power (D&D 3.5's "Book Of the Nine Swords" comes to mind here).

Tabletop RPG gaming a a blast. I encourage everbody to try it at least one or twice. Get your Geek on.

Joshc Shin:

I can understand saying the plot is not the quintessential most important task for the DM, but in my view it is. You must construct a world, it's stories, and it's people. You must be able to explain to your players why they should give a damn, and why they should help those poor peasents/lords/ladies/etc. It's nice to fully understand the rules, but I assure you that one player at your table will rule lawyer with you, meaning that knowing all the rules can merely get you into an annoyingly long fight. Honestly though, take a page from Paranoia about rules. They are there to give a semblance of order, but if they get in the way ignore them.

So, I liked this article, and I hope you don't try and downplay the importance of storytelling in RPG's. Remember, it's the story that allows you to...well, role-play. Otherwise it would just be a miniature game.

I distinguish plot ("The pattern of events or main story in a narrative or drama.") from setting (NPCs, backstory, places).

Perhaps a different angle is looking at Oblivion and Fallout. Those games have a lot of plot in them (missions; an overall campaign) but there's also the ability to just ignore it all, and do your own thing with lots of NPCs, places and items. For me these games encapsulate the best things about an RPG, whether p'n'p or crpg: the freedom to do what you want to do, with the structure to give you something to do when you need that.

domicius:

Joshc Shin:

I can understand saying the plot is not the quintessential most important task for the DM, but in my view it is. You must construct a world, it's stories, and it's people. You must be able to explain to your players why they should give a damn, and why they should help those poor peasents/lords/ladies/etc. It's nice to fully understand the rules, but I assure you that one player at your table will rule lawyer with you, meaning that knowing all the rules can merely get you into an annoyingly long fight. Honestly though, take a page from Paranoia about rules. They are there to give a semblance of order, but if they get in the way ignore them.

So, I liked this article, and I hope you don't try and downplay the importance of storytelling in RPG's. Remember, it's the story that allows you to...well, role-play. Otherwise it would just be a miniature game.

I distinguish plot ("The pattern of events or main story in a narrative or drama.") from setting (NPCs, backstory, places).

Perhaps a different angle is looking at Oblivion and Fallout. Those games have a lot of plot in them (missions; an overall campaign) but there's also the ability to just ignore it all, and do your own thing with lots of NPCs, places and items. For me these games encapsulate the best things about an RPG, whether p'n'p or crpg: the freedom to do what you want to do, with the structure to give you something to do when you need that.

There are certianly parrelles to be drawn, but I would say that in story for RPG's there are to three styles done with story.

1. A main plot with a few side quests but the focus is the main story. A lot of tabletop games fall into this category or....

2. A world in which there are plenty of quests, with a main story that is left pretty loose and open, the players can ignore or modify it at their leisure. This is probably the most common with American rpg's, but most tabletop games have a strong emphasis on the main story over the side quests.

3. This is one where there is no story, not a main one at least. A world that has stories, history, and characters that the players are frees to find and do with as they please. These games I find are the rarest to fond, because most developers want to tell a story. I think though that games that have no main story tell some of the strongest, because the developer or the DM has given full story control to the players. This is no longer some other person's story, but you're own.

John Wedge:
I'll be following this with great interest over the coming weeks. I've been roleplaying for about 6 years or so, and wargaming for nearly 15, and the only time I've ever really been on the GM side of things was running games of Inquisitor which is an interesting half-way house. Its not a skirmish level game per se, more a heroic, narrative-driven wargame. Creating campaigns and stories for that is interesting but also fundementally limited; the vast majority of what goes on in a story revolves around the battlefield. Given that most of the players are wargamers, what they're interested is the table-top conflict side of things. In comparison to a 'regular' RPG the whole thing is basically a dungeon crawl with shiny figures.

See, I thought like this for a while, but I'm going to start an Inquisitor game in a few weeks, and it hit me recently - Facebook. 90% of humanity (and most of their dogs...) are on Facebook at the moment, so why not make a Facebook group for the campaign that counts as a "Conclave" between the fights? Say it's heavily guarded by a senior Inquisitor and his private army so there's no fighting there, and then prepare tabletop missions based on what happens in that (and what messages players send me :P).

If everything goes to plan, I shouldn't even have to engineer fights after a few weeks :D

I personally think that while I agree with the general ideal of this system, I would differ on certain minor points. Now, I usually run RP's through either voice or text-based IM systems (my girlfriend got me into RP'ing in general), usually Skype. To save on time, the players do the to hit rolls (and have to be trusted not to cheat), but the GM does the hit allocation and damage rolls. So if a player is consistently lucky, he can wind up receiving a karmic backlash for cheating in the form of implausibly low damage rolls.

We also use a realistic combat/ranged system for the RP's, which we've adapted for a variety of weapons (including modern assault rifles, billhooks, swords and plasma cannons).

But the main thing is that the players are not always in control. If the players determine the entirity of the story, it gets boring. So occasionally, something gets thrown in. They get arrested. Gangsters start shooting up a cafe the players are in. One of the characters has their sexual orientation switched.

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